Thousands march in London pro-Palestinian rally

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Demonstrators hold banners and flags as they gather ahead of a march in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza, in London, on Mar. 9, 2024. (AP)
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A demonstrator holds a megaphone ahead of a march in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza, in London, on Mar. 9, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 13 March 2024
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Thousands march in London pro-Palestinian rally

  • Regular marches protesting Israel’s military response to the attacks have seen dozens arrested for anti-Semitic chanting and banners
  • The march, from Hyde Park Corner to the US Embassy, was the fifth major demonstration of the year so far in the capital

LONDON: Thousands of protesters marched in central London on Saturday to call for a ceasefire in Gaza amid ongoing bombardments by Israel after the deadly Hamas attack on its territory on October 7.
Regular marches protesting Israel’s military response to the attacks have seen dozens arrested for anti-Semitic chanting and banners, promoting a proscribed organization and assaulting emergency workers.
The march, from Hyde Park Corner to the US Embassy, was the fifth major demonstration of the year so far in the capital.
“We will continue to protest until a ceasefire is called, and until there is an end to all UK complicity with Israel’s decades long oppression of the Palestinian people,” march organizer Ben Jamal said ahead of the protest.

“Despite further attempts by government ministers, including the prime minister, to demonize those protesting and suppress calls for a ceasefire, hundreds of thousands will again be taking to the streets, calling for an end to Israel’s genocidal war on the Palestinian people,” said Jamal, who is director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

PSC added: “Coming just after International Women’s Day, the focus will be on what the UN Women organization describes as an unprecedented ‘war on women’.”

Last week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for the police to take tougher action against the protesters, saying the events “had descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence.”
The prime minister said that “police have a tough job in policing the protests” but that “we must draw a line.”
“I say this to the police, we will back you when you take action,” he added.
Itai Galmudy, the organizer of a counter-protest on Saturday, said pro-Palestine demonstrations had created “no-go zones for Jewish people” in the capital and “ballooned into anti-Israeli hate marches.”
“We will just not accept that Jews can’t go out in the street because somebody wants to protest,” he said.
“We think it’s enough. We don’t want to live in fear and we will not accept it.”
London’s Metropolitan Police have also criticized the protests, saying the cost of policing such events had reached £32.3 million ($41 million) since October 7.
“We are clearly operating in a context where we understand our Jewish and Muslim communities continue to be highly concerned about antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crime and their own sense of safety in London,” said Karen Findlay, who oversaw policing across London on Saturday.
On Friday a pro-Palestinian UK protest group said one of its activists had “ruined” a portrait on display of Arthur Balfour, the British politician whose declaration helped lead to Israel’s creation.
Police confirmed officers had received an online report of criminal damage to a painting at the University of Cambridge’s Trinity College, in south-eastern England.
Palestine Action, which describes itself as a direct-action network of groups and individuals, posted video footage online of the activist spraying the artwork with red paint from a cannister and then slashing the surface of the framed painting multiple times.
The Balfour Declaration was a 67-word letter in 1917 from Britain’s then-foreign secretary to Lionel Rothschild, a prominent British Zionist, supporting the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The document is credited with eventually helping to spur the creation of Israel in 1948, which also led to the displacement of around 750,000 Palestinians and decades of strife between the two communities.
The war in Gaza began after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel that resulted in about 1,160 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Militants also took around 250 hostages. Israel believes 99 of them remain alive in Gaza and that 31 have died.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 30,717 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

(With AFP)


Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

Updated 14 sec ago
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Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

  • Jakarta, Riyadh have been working with other Muslim countries to rally international support for Palestine
  • President-elect Subianto recently pledged to increase UNRWA funding, send more medical teams to Gaza

JAKARTA: Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s president-elect, sees Saudi Arabia as a main partner in resolving global issues, his office said on Thursday following a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Subianto, who is still serving as Indonesia’s defense minister before he takes the top office in October, visited Jeddah on Wednesday after attending an international aid conference on Gaza in Jordan. 

In his first meeting with the Saudi crown prince since winning the general vote in February, Subianto highlighted the importance of cooperation between Jakarta and Riyadh to support international peace efforts, including in Palestine.  

“For Indonesia, Saudi Arabia is a main partner in dialogue and in resolving regional and global issues,” Subianto said, as quoted in a Ministry of Defense statement. 

“I have witnessed (the crown prince’s) steadfastness in affirming Saudi leadership in the region, including to promote peace and stability for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. The issue of Palestine is very close to our hearts.” 

Subianto pledged to increase contributions to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees and send more medical teams to Gaza during the conference in Jordan, where he also called for a two-state solution for Palestine.

Indonesia has long been a staunch supporter of Palestine and one of the most vocal countries since the beginning of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza last October. It sees Palestinian statehood as mandated by its constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism. 

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are part of a ministerial committee formed during the joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit last November, which has been working to rally international support for an immediate end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

“I rely on your leadership to defend peace, justice and humanity for Palestine,” Subianto told the crown prince during their meeting.

The Indonesian president-elect has been urging Israel to obey the orders of the International Court of Justice and stop its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and has called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the besieged strip, where over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 80 percent of people have been displaced from their homes.


UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process

Updated 58 min 47 sec ago
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UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process

  • “Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” said Labour’s election manifesto

MANCHESTER: Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which is far ahead in polls before a July 4 election, pledged on Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process.
“Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” said Labour’s election manifesto — the collection of policies it would enact if it forms the next government.
“We are committed to recognizing a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”
The current Conservative-led government has previously said Britain could formally recognize a Palestinian state before the end of a peace process, and that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be given “the political perspective of a credible route to a Palestinian state and a new future.”
In May, Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, prompting an angry reaction from Israel, which has found itself increasingly isolated after more than seven months of conflict in Gaza.


NATO defense ministers thrash out new security aid and training support plan for Ukraine

Updated 13 June 2024
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NATO defense ministers thrash out new security aid and training support plan for Ukraine

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability about the kinds of weapons

BRUSSELS: NATO defense ministers gathered Thursday hoping to agree on a new plan to provide long-term security assistance and military training to Ukraine, after Hungary promised not to veto the scheme as long as it’s not forced to take part.
The ministers are meeting over two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the last high-level talks before a summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington on July 9-11, where the military organization’s leaders are expected to announce financial support for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Western allies are trying to bolster their military support as Russian troops launch attacks along the more than 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, taking advantage of a lengthy delay in US military aid. European Union money was also held up by political infighting.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is chairing Thursday’s meeting, said that Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability about the kinds of weapons, ammunition and funds they can expect to receive.
“The whole idea is to minimize the risk for gaps and delays as we saw earlier this year,” Stoltenberg told reporters. The hold-up, he said, “is one of the reasons why the Russians are now able to push and to actually occupy more land in Ukraine.”
Since Russia’s full-fledged invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s Western backers have routinely met as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, run by the Pentagon, to drum up weapons and ammunition for Kyiv. A fresh meeting was held at NATO headquarters on Thursday.
While those meetings have resulted in significant battlefield support, they have been of an ad-hoc and unpredictable nature. Stoltenberg has spearheaded an effort to have NATO take up some of the slack.
The idea is for the 32-nation military alliance to coordinate the security assistance and training process, partly by using NATO’s command structure and drawing on funds from its common budget.
Stoltenberg said he hopes Biden and his counterparts will agree in Washington to maintain the funding level for military support they have provided Ukraine since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion in February 2022.
He estimates this at around 40 billion euros ($43 billion) worth of equipment each year.
On Wednesday, Hungary announced that it would not veto the plan as long as it’s not forced to take part.
“I asked the Secretary-General to make it clear that all military action outside NATO territory can only be voluntary in nature, according to NATO rules and our traditions,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said. “Hungary has received the guarantees we need.”
The world’s biggest security alliance does not send weapons or ammunition to Ukraine as an organization, and has no plans to put troops on the ground. But many of its members give help on a bilateral basis, and jointly provide more than 90 percent of the country’s military support.
The other 31 allies see Russia’s war on Ukraine as an existential security threat to Europe, but most of them, including Biden, have been extremely cautious to ensure that NATO is not drawn into a wider conflict with Russia.
NATO operates on the basis that an attack on any single ally will be met with a response from them all.


G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

Updated 13 June 2024
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G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

  • The Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence are also on the packed agenda
  • For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday

BARI: Group of Seven leaders will aim to boost funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia and offer a united face in confronting China’s political and economic ambitions at their annual summit in southern Italy on Thursday.
For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday, and he is due to sign a new, long-term security accord with US President Joe Biden.
The G7 leaders look likely to announce they have agreed at least in principle on plans to issue $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after its invasion of Ukraine to back the multi-year debt package.
“I think we will have the major tentpoles of this decided, but some of the specifics left to be worked through by experts on a defined timetable,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said of the discussions.
“I think we are on the verge of a good outcome here,” he added.
Officials acknowledge the plan is complex, with legal experts still having to thrash out the details that will need the backing of European nations, particularly Belgium, which is not in the G7.

Packed Agenda
With the Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence also on a packed agenda, the June 13-15 summit in the southern Italian region of Puglia would be taxing for leaders at the best of times, but most of them are also bowed down by their own domestic woes.
Only the host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is riding high after triumphing in Italy’s European election last weekend, but achieving meaningful results in the luxury Borgo Egnazia hotel resort will be a tall order.
Biden’s goal at the G7 was to reinforce the idea that the United States is best served if it is closely aligned with its democratic allies and partners, Sullivan said, when asked about the prospects of it being the president’s last summit given he faces a re-election battle in November.
Underscoring US determination to punish Moscow for its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Washington on Wednesday dramatically broadened sanctions on Moscow, including by targeting China-based companies selling semiconductors to Moscow.
By announcing new restrictions on Chinese firms on the eve of the G7 meeting, Biden is no doubt hoping to persuade Western allies to show greater resolve in confronting Beijing over its support for Russia and its industrial over-capacity.
Speaking ahead of the start of the summit, Sullivan said that China was a significant creditor to many heavily indebted countries.
“The G7 communique is not singling out or focusing on a single country,” he said, but added that China needed to play a constructive role in dealing with the debt burden.


Eight EU countries call for restricting Russian diplomats’ movement

Updated 13 June 2024
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Eight EU countries call for restricting Russian diplomats’ movement

PRAGUE: Eight European Union foreign ministers called on the EU to ban Russian diplomats from moving freely around the bloc and restrict them to countries where they are accredited, in a letter to EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“Free movement of holders of Russian diplomatic and service passports, accredited in one host state, across the whole Schengen area is easing malign activities,” according to the letter, dated June 11, seen by Reuters.
The ministers said that intelligence, propaganda “or even preparation of sabotage acts are the main workload for a large number of Russian ‘diplomats’ in the EU,” and while expulsions were important, the threat remained.
“We believe the EU should strictly follow the reciprocity principle and restrict the movement of members of Russian diplomatic missions and their family members to territory of a state of their accreditation only,” they said.
“This measure will significantly narrow operational space for Russian agents,” added the letter, which was signed by ministers from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.